Santa Barbara, Calif. (April 2018) — In the Santa Barbara South Coast, the foothills have turned lush, green and gorgeous and the ocean is sparkling. The arrival of spring has brought exciting developments, from already-bustling restaurants headed by renowned chefs to new—and newly renovated—hotel properties.

Spring festivals celebrate everything from the region's remarkable wineries to Santa Barbara's bike-friendly terrain and ephemeral chalk art masterpieces, while the Santa Barbara Bowl's award-winning outdoor concert season and polo season return in time for temperate weather. Read on to learn more about what's stirring in Santa Barbara.  

TRANSPORTATION, TOURS AND TOURISM

New 2018 Santa Barbara Visitors Magazine set to inspire travelers

The 2018 Santa Barbara Visitors Magazine released by Visit Santa Barbara this spring features stunning photography from local influencer Blake Bronstad, with tips on unique experiences and coverage of the latest openings. From new, stylish hotels and restaurants to longtime favorites, waterfront excursions to iconic festivals, to the lowdown on Santa Barbara's world-class wine, arts and cultural scenes, the magazine captures everything needed to plan an escape to The American Riviera. Magazines are available through online and phone requests, at California Welcome Centers, West Coast airports and Santa Barbara-area hospitality businesses, among other outlets. To request a magazine, visit https://bit.ly/2Eetd2j  or call (805) 966-9222.

Amtrak's Friends and Family train promotion offers big discounts

Through June 29, friends and family who travel together on Amtrak to Santa Barbara can save big with the Pacific Surfliner's “Friends and Family” promotion. Visitors who purchase one full-fare adult train ticket can book up to three additional passengers on the same reservation and receive a 50 percent discount on Pacific Surfliner trips to Ventura, Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo counties. The route features some of Southern California's most iconic scenery on the way to visiting the sparkling beaches of Santa Barbara, the eclectic downtown shops of Ventura, and the rolling hills of San Luis Obispo. http://bit.ly/2HGlyfm

Take the train to Santa Barbara and save on car-free activities

Santa Barbara Car Free has teamed up with Amtrak again in 2018 to give visitors exclusive discounts to multiple attractions around town. To participate, visitors simply show their train tickets (paper, e-ticket or mobile device) and receive perks at participating attractions, restaurants and hotels, such as Santa Barbara Adventure Company, the Santa Barbara Zoo and Eat This, Shoot That! food and wine tours. Book train tickets through Santa Barbara Car Free's website and save up to 20 percent on fares. Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner offers six train rides per day into Santa Barbara along the coast from points south, including Los Angeles. Coast Starlight connects Seattle to Los Angeles, with stops in Santa Barbara.

https://www.santabarbaracarfree.org/

HOTELS

Rebranding/renovation of Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort

The Fess Parker: A Doubletree by Hilton Resort, one of Santa Barbara's iconic resorts in the waterfront area, has undergone a major $15M interior renovation and rebranding. Completed in April 2018, the 360-room property is now known as Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort. Built in 1986, the hotel was originally named after the late Fess Parker, the Hollywood TV and film actor known for his portrayal of Davy Crockett. The property will remain managed by Hilton and jointly owned by Park Hotels & Resorts (PK-NYSE) along with Parker's son and daughter, Eli and Ashley Parker. The renovation includes a full refurbishment of the guest rooms (which now have a sophisticated but light and airy, ocean-inspired aesthetic), spacious lobby, Roundhouse Restaurant, Java Del Mar, as well as the resort's extensive 45,000 square feet of meeting space, including two ballrooms and their foyers and meeting rooms. https://www.fessparkersantabarbarahotel.com/   

New Hilton Garden Inn Santa Barbara/Goleta near the Santa Barbara Airport

Visitors seeking a contemporary vibe will enjoy the new Hilton Garden Inn Santa Barbara/Goleta, conveniently located near the Santa Barbara Airport and UC Santa Barbara, with 142 guestrooms and over 3,500 square feet of space with state-of-the-art equipment for meetings and events. Guests can enjoy freshly prepared breakfast, lunch or dinner at Garden Grille & Bar or unwind with craft cocktails on the scenic rooftop at the Spyglass Bistro & Bar. After sightseeing in Goleta (aka “The Good Land”), which has a burgeoning craft brewery scene, or nearby Santa Barbara, guests can also order meals from room service, stock up on snacks from the 24-hour convenience mart, and work out in the modern fitness center and outdoor pool. http://bit.ly/2nJ655S

FOOD

Smithy Kitchen + Bar opens in Historic Theatre District

Smithy Kitchen + Bar, a new restaurant in Santa Barbara's Historic Theatre District from Steve Hermann Hotels and Restaurants, features a dreamy design aesthetic in a building that was originally a blacksmith shop. Chef Lauren Herman (former chef de cuisine for Suzanne Goin's acclaimed Lucques and a.o.c. in Los Angeles), and her wife, sous chef Christina Olufson (former executive pastry chef for Lucques Group) head up the eatery, which opened in December 2017. The menu incorporates locally sourced ingredients with exquisite dessert and cocktail programs. The airy and open interior décor features exposed brick walls with weathered board-and-batten walls, rustic reclaimed table tops, and schoolhouse chairs, while a romantic exterior courtyard is outfitted with century-old olive trees, a central hearth and gas lamps. http://smithysb.com/

Bibi Ji, new Indian restaurant and bottle shop, from renowned chef Jessi Singh and sommelier Rajat Parr

Chef Jessi Singh, from San Francisco's and New York City's acclaimed Babu Ji, and Rajat Parr, James Beard Award-winning sommelier, have teamed up to open a new Indian restaurant, wine bar and bottle shop Bibi Ji on Santa Barbara's State Street. The locally inspired, seafood-focused menu, which opened in February, incorporates specialties such as Hope Ranch black mussels and Santa Barbara sea urchin (in dishes like uni biryani served with fried rice), as well as farmers market produce. Bibi Ji's wine list and bottle shop has a range of uniquely affordable bottles, as well as Parr's own Santa Barbara County labels, Domaine de la Côte and Sandhi. Bibi Ji, an Indian term of endearment for women, pays tribute to the formative women in Singh's and Parr's lives. http://bibijisb.com/

Plant-based restaurant, Oliver's, from acclaimed chef Matthew Kenney, opens in Montecito

Oliver's, an elevated, smart-casual vegan restaurant, opened in fall 2017 in Montecito. Renowned Los Angeles-based consulting chef Matthew Kenney has opened plant-based concepts in cities including LA, New York, London, Miami and Bahrain. The menu offers minimally processed, approachable cuisine that is delicious, vibrant and nutritious, including small-plate options like herb-roasted sweet potatoes and avocado toast on turmeric oat bread and entrees like toasted farro risotto, cauliflower bucatini, and wild mushroom tostada. Oliver's has partnered with Juice Ranch, a local juicery, to create high-end spirits made with fresh organic, cold-pressed juice. https://www.oliversofmontecito.com/

Bluewater Grill, new seafood restaurant along waterfront

Santa Barbara's latest seafood restaurant, Bluewater Grill, opened its doors March 12 for visitors to enjoy delectable lunch, dinner and small plates. Adjacent to the buzzy Funk Zone, the restaurant is located in a renovated lighthouse-shaped building with a view of the oceanfront and Stearns Wharf. The eatery includes an oyster bar, outside patio area and inside/outside bar where guests can enjoy wine flights from local wineries. Owners Richard Staunton and James Ulcickas' intention is to source most of the seafood from local fishermen; the restaurant is sustainability certified from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. https://www.bluewatergrill.com/

Four new eateries from “Top Chef” competitor and Scratch|Restaurants to open at Montecito Inn

“Top Chef” competitor and chef Phillip Frankland Lee of LA's Scratch|Restaurants and his wife, pastry chef Margarita Kallas-Lee, are launching four eateries in the family-run Montecito Inn, beginning in spring 2018. Concepts include Frankland's Crab & Co., a fast seafood shack, which opened April 6, followed in summer/early fall 2018 by The Monarch, which pays tribute to Central Coast cuisine with a wood-burning oven and bar, and Margarita's Snacks, which will include ice cream flavors inspired by pastries, Kallas-Lee's specialty. (Camembert ice cream topped with sourdough breadcrumbs, anyone?) Final concept, Silver Bough, a “modern approach to the grand fine dining tradition” and chef's table is expected to open in late 2018. https://www.montecitoinn.com/dining--lounge.htm

Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolates retail shop and factory open in Lagoon District

Santa Barbara's Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolates opened its first retail outlet and factory showroom in March in the Lagoon District, after eight years as a wholesale operation. The bean-to-bar chocolatier creates ethically sourced, single-origin, artisanal confections by hand, inspired by traditional chocolate-making techniques. Its small-batch confections include small and large chocolate bars with eye-catching wrappers, truffles, salted caramels, drinking chocolate kits and more. Somewhat like a real-life Willy Wonka, founder Mike Orlando, a former analytical chemist, built his own equipment from scratch and stumbled into chocolate-making when he was trying to create the perfect coffee roast. The shop is open Thursdays through Sundays noon through 7 p.m. http://www.twentyfourblackbirds.com/

WINE AND LIBATIONS

Alaska Airlines' Wine Flies Free from Santa Barbara

A recent expansion of Alaska Airlines' popular Wine Flies Free program to select regions throughout the West Coast means that travelers flying out of Santa Barbara Airport now can check a case of wine at no cost. Visitors must sign up for the airline's complimentary Mileage Plan program and add their plan number to the flight reservation. At tasting rooms of the Urban Wine Trail or other Santa Barbara County wineries, winery staff can help securely package a case for flight—they just need to leave the box unsealed. We'll toast to that! For additional tips and info, visit http://bit.ly/2vUFBoM  

Santa Barbara Vintners Festival and Wine Country Weekend, April 19 to 23 
The 36th Santa Barbara Vintners Festival and Wine Country Weekend will be held April 19 to 23 throughout Santa Barbara County. The highlight is the Festival Grand Tasting Sat., April 21 in scenic River Park in Lompoc. Guests can taste the full range of the region's world-renowned wine from more than 75 participating wineries. The event also features a Bubble Lounge showcasing sparkling wines, more than 35 food purveyors, live music, culinary demonstrations, local artisans and silent auctions. During Wine Country Weekend, visitors can purchase a separate $50 Vintners Visa to enjoy complimentary tastings at more than 30 tasting rooms throughout Santa Barbara County, including Au Bon Climat, Carr Winery, Jaffurs Wine Cellars and Santa Barbara Winery in the city of Santa Barbara. Special winemaker dinners, open houses and more will be held at wineries throughout the region. http://www.sbvintnersweekend.com/    

Wine-tasting rooms and new additions in Presidio Neighborhood rebrand

Eight elegant wine-tasting rooms independently run by Santa Barbara County winemaking families have rebranded as Wineries of the Presidio Neighborhood (formerly the Wine Collection of El Paseo). Set in the historic downtown neighborhood, the wineries are small-lot, boutique producers of world-class, premium wines harvested only from Santa Barbara County vineyards. Among them are some of the most respected and influential names in Santa Barbara wine, from legendary Jim Clendenen's Au Bon Climat to Margerum Wine Company, Grassini Family Vineyards (which has a new tasting room and patio) to Jamie Slone Wines, many of which are set along the cobblestone pathways of El Paseo, an adobe complex dating back to the early 1800s. Recent additions include Silver Wines, Cebada Wine and Standing Sun Wines. http://presidioneighborhoodsb.com/     

Downtown LIVE Art & Wine Tour offers a taste of Santa Barbara, May 24

The Downtown LIVE Art & Wine Tour, hosted by Downtown Santa Barbara, takes place from 5 to 9 p.m. May 24 at venues throughout Santa Barbara's vibrant city center. Tour-goers can take a leisurely stroll exploring some of the downtown corridor's most exciting attractions, sampling delectable dishes from leading regional restaurants, tasting wines from world-class vintners and viewing art during special extended hours in the area's many galleries. Cap off the evening with a finale at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, a party featuring live music, more food and wine and a silent auction. https://www.downtownsb.org/events/art-and-wine-tour

ACTIVITIES & EVENTS

Santa Barbara Bowl concert season kicks off and runs through fall 2018
The new concert season for Santa Barbara Bowl­, a scenic outdoor amphitheater nestled in the Santa Barbara foothills, kicked off in March and runs through fall 2018. Popular musicians with Santa Barbara connections are appearing in a series of sold-out concerts to benefit the Montecito community and more. Singer-songwriter Jack Johnson held a concert in March. Superstar Katy Perry performs a sold-out concert May 19 in her Santa Barbara hometown, and country crooner Brad Paisley with special guest Ellen DeGeneres will hold a sold-out concert May 12. The bowl's 2018 lineup also includes the KJEE Summer Round Up with the Cold War Kids and more (May 11), comedian Jim Gaffigan (May 25), Bon Iver (Aug. 8), Steve Miller Band & Peter Frampton (Aug. 15), Jack White (Aug. 19), Jason Mraz (Sept. 15), and others. https://sbbowl.com

CycleMAYnia and Stage 2 Amgen Tour of California in May

Santa Barbara South Coast's bike month, CycleMAYnia, is packed with 40 exciting bicycling events throughout May for people of all ages and abilities, from fun rides and bike camping trips throughout the region to a Bike Light Art Show (May 3) and Sew Your Own Bike Bag class (May 2). The month-long celebration is coordinated by Traffic Solutions. The Amgen Tour of California will return to Santa Barbara County on May 14 for the Queen Stage 2 Finish atop iconic Gibraltar Road. This marks the ninth time—and the sixth year in a row—that the Santa Barbara region has hosted the men's competition. For seven days, some of the world's top professional cycling teams will compete in a challenging course that includes 600+ miles of scenic California highways and roadways. http://cyclemaynia.ning.com/ and https://www.amgentourofcalifornia.com/

I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival, May 26 to 28

Using chalk pastels of many colors, artists transform the pavement outside Old Mission Santa Barbara into 150 vibrant, large-scale images each Memorial Day weekend. Some are original designs, while others are renderings of famous period paintings. A benefit for Children's Creative Project, the festival features live music, food booths and more. “Madonnari” means street painters in Italy, where street-painting festivals originated, and artists ranging from professionals to schoolchildren provide visitors a patchwork of creativity to enjoy. http://www.imadonnarifestival.com/

Polo season begins at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club

Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club's 2018 Polo Season runs May through October at the Engel & Völkers Polo Stadium. One of the-best kept secrets on the Santa Barbara South Coast, world-class polo matches are open to the general public, with tickets starting at only $12. Luxury field-side cabanas and special themed lounges are also available. The Club has a happy hour on Fridays throughout the season featuring libations and small bites for purchase. On Sundays, the Club hosts “Polo After Hours,” a social after-party following matches with dancing, music by DJ Fab and a no-host bar. Come stomp the divots and wear your best polo finery for this affordable luxury enjoyed by royalty (Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visited in 2011) and regular folks alike. http://www.sbpolo.com/

ON THE HORIZON

June 21, 2018 Official Drink of Santa Barbara Cocktail Competition

June 2018 Harbor View Inn expansion to add 34 rooms and suites

July 6-August 24 Animation! Free film screenings at Santa Barbara County Courthouse

July 14-15, 2018 30th Anniversary of the Santa Barbara French Festival

July 2018 Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History's Centennial Project renovation and new, permanent Butterflies Alive! pavilion

Late 2018 Rosewood Miramar Beach Montecito resort to open in Montecito